Kink Organizations: Hiding in Plain SightApr 30th, 2012 | By Indigo | Category: Contributors, Indigo Marr, Op-Ed
When MadisonKink was created, one of its main goals was to promote kink events in the Madison area openly and in a favorable light. As we celebrate our first anniversary, you might notice that the listings for groups and events aren’t as full as you might expect. A great deal of this is because the very public groups you know about are “hiding”. This is very disappointing behavior–not because it keeps our pages from filling up, but because of the very strong and detrimental message it sends to those both inside and outside of the kink community.
Shhh… It’s a Secret
It seems to be the fashion in Madison to keep your kink a secret. All the cool kids are doing it, after all. The two largest and most popular kink events in Madison refuse to tell people where they meet. They aren’t the only ones. Quite a few groups and events refuse to list where they gather. In fact, despite a full calendar of kink-friendly happenings, it’s quite difficult to find ones that will tell you where they are. Admittedly, a number of these have a very good excuse, in that they are held in private homes. It’s quite sensible to refrain from publishing someone’s home address. Most events, however, are open to the public, advertised in public, and held in public venues–and yet they keep their locations “secret”. That word is in quotes because dozens, if not hundreds, of people attend these events and know their locations.
Others proudly list times and locations on their websites–sites which fill the first page of Google when doing a simple search for kink events in Wisconsin–but insist that anyone else listing basic facts is somehow “invading the privacy of the attendees”. These are the same events which are proudly and prominently featured in the–very public–photo galleries and blogs of the attendees.
How is it “an invasion of privacy” to say that Kink Event will be held at The Venue on the first of May, while it’s perfectly okay to fill Flickr with images of those same hosts and guests tied to a cross, naked, while being whipped? How is it an “invasion of privacy” to state the name and date of an event, and link to the event’s own website? Do people actually believe that can control who repeats facts once they’ve been spoken in public? And… to ask the more important question: why would they want to?
Pride or Shame?
Some may ask “Why is this a bad thing?” First and foremost, keeping “secret locations” sends a bad message. It says we’re ashamed and afraid. Private events–events held in private homes, or events between friends–aren’t what’s being discussed. Those have valid reasons for remaining private, and should not be criticized for doing so. What, however, is the reasoning behind saying “We welcome anyone and everyone to attend our event–but we won’t tell you where”? What are you afraid of? What are you ashamed of? Those are the questions that people will ask–that many do ask.
And those are the questions that we must ask. What are we afraid of? What are we ashamed of? Why is it okay to walk into a bar filled with vanilla patrons, while wearing a leather corset, collar, and leash, but it’s an “invasion of privacy” or some sort of undisclosed threat to say “there’s a BDSM class being held at Bob’s Bar on Tuesday night”?
The fact that some of these events used to clearly and publicly advertise the event location simply emphasizes the impression that we are “hiding”; that we are “running away” because we’re afraid. Is this really the message we want to be sending? Is this really the message that we want to be sending as groups who proclaim to engage in education and outreach?
And… do we even need to go into the sheer “security theatre” of having a “pre-event meeting location” at which the actual location is revealed? 10 seconds on a cell phone by an attendee of the pre-event meeting and the “undisclosed location” is public knowledge. It’s pure show with zero value—a waste of everyone’s time and a blatant message that we’re both afraid and incompetent.
Neophyte Exclusion Protocol
The other prime effect of secrecy is that it creates a closed system–one hostile to those trying to discover who they are and what we do. It’s a Catch-22: You can’t find out where the events are unless you’re a part of the group, and it’s difficult to become part of the group if you can’t go to the events. Not only are the logistics stacked against those who are just discovering kink, but this closed system projects an attitude of isolationism and elitism: “You don’t have the decoder ring, so you can’t play with us.” I’m sure that isn’t the intention of the event founders, but it’s the effect, nonetheless.
What makes gatherings like First Friday and Madtown Beatdown so exceptional is that they make no secret about times and locations, and they welcome–and encourage–newbies and neophytes to attend. Kink can be confusing and scary enough for a newbie as it is, without adding a layer of “secret society” to the mix.
As a prominent member of the community stated: “to occult something does not make it mysterious, it makes it a target.” The hiding, the secrecy, the aggressive refusal of honesty and openness does nothing except hurt us. It shows us as weak and fearful and paints a target on our back.
Beating Ourselves Down
Perhaps the worst effect, however, is that it keeps us in the closet. By hiding ourselves away, we allow the stereotypes, misunderstandings, and misinformation to continue undisputed. We are shutting ourselves off from millions of understanding and interested people who would willingly accept who we are and what we do–if we allowed them to see us.
Would there be opposition and persecution? Of course–but we have that now. The world will never be rid of those who wish to denounce and destroy what they don’t like or can’t understand. But as it stands, we are helping them by staying hidden and silent, giving them the stage and the microphone unopposed–and therefore control of the message. Silence and secrecy are a slow poison that is rotting us from the inside.
It’s been 40 years since the gay & lesbian community “came out of the closet”. While there is still fear, hatred, and misunderstanding from a small (but vocal) contingent, homosexuals are accepted and respected by society at large. Prominent characters on TV are openly gay. Actors and business leaders are openly gay. Our representative in the US House of Representatives–and (hopefully) future US Senator–is openly lesbian. How far have we come since Stonewall?
In a city as liberal and accepting as Madison, it’s disheartening and disappointing to see those who should be leading the progress of understanding and acceptance, to instead be hiding away in “undisclosed locations” and requiring the (metaphorical) secret handshake from those who want to learn.
We all struggle, on one level or another, with the desire to “just be who we are”. This is especially true for those who are just discovering–or admitting–their kink. It is up to us as community leaders and experienced kinksters to show people that there is nothing of which to be afraid, nothing of which to be ashamed. We must lead by example. And the most basic step in do that is simply to stop hiding–to stop projecting and promoting an environment of fear and shame.
We are the leaders. We must lead not only by our words but by our actions. We cannot hide behind an ineffectual–and laughable–”privacy theatre” of secrets and misdirections while telling neophytes that what we do is a valid choice, and nothing of which to be ashamed.
In the end, it comes down to three simple questions:
- What are you afraid of?
- What are you ashamed of?
- When will you stand up and show people that the answer to those questions is “Nothing”?
Who’s willing to stand up and give the answers?
Editor’s Note: To rebut the obvious counter-accusations: My real name is plastered all over this site. I maintain this pen name only because it is how people in the kink community recognize me.
N.B. As of this writing, First Friday is held the first Friday of each month at the Bourbon Street Grille in Monona starting at 8pm